The article deals with the closure of the, mostly Middle High German, courtly romance, taking as primary example Heinrich von Veldeke’s Eneide. ‘Courtly closure’ is defined as a slow and tenacious fading of narrative progression, by means of gradually transforming this progression into a virtually static state, namely, the description of an enduring courtly feast. It is argued that this way of bringing a romance or a novel to its end – unusual in the course of European literary history – is motivated by several factors. Amongst these, special attention is paid to media history (episodic narration, recital) and to cultural poetics (didactic qualities of the courtly romance).
When it comes to the ‘end’, music and what it is connected with – certain practices, dance, text – mutually enrich each other. Phrasings and movements occur as smaller units of any motion and therefore as breaks and endings of very different kinds and dosages. In a song, the text is finished earlier than the music. Due to the convincing force of emotionality, music can help to end ‘illogical’ action where logic is impossible. How music ends by itself only becomes problematic when it is not bound to words or action. What is needed are rituals and fixed cadential formulas, which often are at odds with whatever has been dealt with before.
Schoenberg did not intend his opera Moses and Aron to be a tragedy. The two acts he composed, which end tragically with Moses’ desperate breakdown, were to be followed by a third act, which would have ended with Moses’ resilience, Aron’s death, and a positive message. Schoenberg, however, did not manage to compose the finished text, although he had plenty of time to do so. Even though Schoenberg never wanted to admit this, the opera found its ultimate, unsurpassable ending with the tragic end of the second act.
After briefly outlining the vocabulary of closure and endings in Greek tragedy, this article analyses three possible features of closure: (1) lament (kommos), (2) deus ex machina combined with an aetiological myth (almost exclusively in Euripides), and (3) a gnomic coda spoken by the chorus. All three types of ending remain external to the plot and do not resolve the dramatic conflict. The paper then looks at two case studies from dramas centered on the same myth, i.e. the campaign of the Seven against Thebes in Aeschylus’ play of the same name and in Euripides’ Phoenissae. The endings of these tragedies have provoked much discussion regarding their textual transmission and reconstruction. I discuss how and when the action seems to be ‘fulfilled’, and contrast the strong closure of Aeschylus’ play with the “hypertextual mythical continuity” (Lamari) of Euripides’ drama.